Modelling of Electromagnetic Heating Process and its Applications in Oil Sands Reservoirs

Ji, Dongqi (University of Calgary) | Harding, Thomas (University of Calgary) | Chen, Zhangxin (University of Calgary) | Dong, Mingzhe (University of Calgary) | Liu, Hui (University of Calgary)



For thermal heavy oil recovery, conventional steam injection processes are generally limited to reservoirs of relatively shallow depth, high permeability, thick pay zone and homogeneity. An alternative approach of applying Electromagnetic (EM) energy may be used to generate heat in reservoirs that are not suitable for steam injection or to improve the economics of the heavy oil recovery compared with steam injection. EM in-situ heating of oil reservoirs, in the form of EM energy absorption by dielectric materials, leads to an increase in temperature, a reduction in oil viscosity and an improvement in oil mobility. Recent studies have shown that EM heating is capable of reducing carbon emissions and water usage. However, the existing EM field simulators are limited to modeling of homogeneous media with respect to dielectric properties, which affects EM wave propagation and in-situ heat generation. For oil sands recovery where reservoir heating by EM energy is promising, it is desirable to simulate reservoirs in inhomogeneous formations, in which dielectric properties vary according to specific location. In this work, important background information regarding the EM wave propagation in inhomogeneous media is provided. A Helmholtz equation for the magnetic field by deformation of Maxwell's equations is presented that makes it feasible to find EM field solutions for such inhomogeneous media. Solution of only the magnetic field makes this work execution faster than the classical methods in which both magnetic and electric fields need to be calculated. By solving the equations of EM wave propagation and fluid flow in oil sands reservoirs simultaneously, this work provides a fully-implicit modelling method for the EM heating process. The feasibility of EM heating in oil sands is examined in two case studies: a) a horizontal well containing an antenna within and b) a horizontal well-pair with an antenna located in the upper well.